CharlieMC (charliemc) wrote,

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Ah, Summer!

This morning is pleasantly overcast. It reminds me of those days at the beach when we were kids and used to go clam digging!

We rarely ever went on trips as children. Our parents only once ever took us on an actual summer vacation, like you see on TV and in the movies. (That one trip stands out pretty strongly in my memory for that very reason. LOL.)

But impromptu trips to the beach? Those happened quite often!

Grandpa Ed (our Dad's father) owned an old store front where we all used to go and stay. What fun to have our family and our cousins, Grandpa and Aunt Dorothy (Dad's younger, unmarried sister) all staying in the small, dusty store, 'camping out' so we could clam dig.

It was almost never planned that I can recall! Grandpa would come by on a Friday when Dad was home from work. The next thing you knew, Mom would be helping us to quickly pack up a few things and we'd all be in the car and driving to the beach. Often it would be dusk when we hit the road, and Marilyn mistressmarilyn and I would be dressed in our pajamas in the back seat. We'd have pillows and blankets in case we wanted to drift off, but I remember mostly that we'd both be awake and quiet, staring into the night and daydreaming as we rode along.

I don't recall that we ever were driving in a 'convoy' (with Grandpa and the aunts and uncles). I guess everyone just agreed to meet and each went their own way getting there.

Trips always seemed so much longer when we were kids, of course. And those night rides to the beach through the mountains and tall, tall pines -- I'll never, ever forget how magical they were!

Then we'd get to the old store front and everyone would have sleeping bags down everywhere. For whatever reason, it seems like Marilyn and I were always put into one of the tiny bedrooms, in the small beds (more like cots) there. (I suppose it could have been because of our very protective mother, but it might have been Grandpa showing favor. That's an amazing thing when you had a family as big as ours! Dad had two brother who were married with children. Uncle Butch had married a Catholic, so he had a really big family, too -- with tons of kids...)

Then we get up really, really early on Saturday morning and dress in jeans and tennis shoes -- or sometimes flip flops (they were called thongs back then) -- with lightweight jackets that had hoods. It would be overcast and cold most times, as we're talking the Washington coast -- and early enough that we'd hit the beach around the same time that the sun was coming up! (We're not talking those thin windbreaker jackets, but something a bit thicker and warmer, though still not too heavy.)

The sand would be wet from the outgoing tide as we headed with clam shovels and buckets down to the ocean's edge. The minute we got out of the car our shoes and socks came off and we went barefoot. Nobody wanted to spend hours with wet shoes! I'll never forget the way the sand felt between my toes -- delicious!

We'd learned early to recognize the tiny 'dent' (bubble) that indicated a calm below the surface! You'd put your back to the ocean and stick your shovel in about a foot's length away from the calm bubble. (You didn't want to hit the clam when you dug down.)

Once you'd started the hole with your shovel, you'd get quickly down on hands and knees and use your hands to finish digging. Then you'd peer in and see the top edge of the clam! Time to grab it and pull it out.

Marilyn was such a tiny thing! Skinny as a rail. She couldn't always pull the clam up and out by herself. LOL. But she could hang on forever. She'd get hold with her fingers and call for help. Then often I'd be the one to rush to her side and help do more digging until she could finally extract the clam.

You'd pull the clam free, hopeful you hadn't cracked the shell with your shovel. Then you'd examine the size, to be sure it was big enough to keep. A clam too small was always rejected, allowed to grow larger for another day...

But if you'd broken a clam you were supposed to take it, according to the laws. We'd been taught to sneak them back into the hole! But we were supposed to look around first and see if anyone else was watching us...

I can't recall what sort of law enforcement agents patrolled the beaches, but I remember we were ever vigilant in watching for them! They were 'bad' and would keep us from doing what we'd been taught to do... (smile)

Each person digging had a 'limit' -- and no one was supposed to help anyone else dig their limits. But we all did it, even so! Marilyn and I were great clammers, and often helped others to dig their limits.

When everyone had their limits it was time to head back to our cars and drive back 'home.' The bottom of our jeans would be wet and uncomfortably stiff, usually up to the knees. Nobody much wanted to put back on their shoes, as our feet would be sandy -- sometimes with sand up to our knees!

We'd get back to the storefront and use the outdoor faucet to wash off a bit before heading in to change out of our wet clothes. By then the sun would usually be out and it would be a sunny day! Time to put on shorts or other summery clothing. Ugh, those jeans would be so stiff with sea water and sand that we couldn't wait to get them off!

I remember that the adults spent ages cleaning the clams, but we didn't ever do that -- as I recall -- unless we were actually at home doing it in our kitchen sinks. (Some clams went home, in big buckets of seawater, the way to keep them alive and fresh until cleaning!)

There was something that had to come off the clam (???) that was poisonous to eat. I used to know, but it's been years and years since we clammed and cleaned them...

In those days there were tons of clams -- big ones! We never 'cheated' and used 'clam guns,' but always our trusty shovels. (We still have an old clam shovel out in our garage...)

The rest of the day would be spent in some fun, vacation-like fashion. I recall playing with our Barbies several times. (For one trip I remember that Marilyn had Barbie and I had Ken -- dolls were expensive, and it would be years before we each had both a 'girl' and 'boy' doll.)

I also remember buying comic books to read, which was always a big treat! (I think they were actually 12 cents each back then, if you can imagine!)

By supper there would be a big mess of clams to eat! They'd usually just dip them in beer batter and fry them up while at the beach -- but we weren't big fans of those as kids. (I remember eating boiled hot dogs while the adults were enjoying the clams! LOL.)

But sometimes even at the beach they'd grind some up and make clam patties, fried a golden brown! Those we did eat and enjoy. (Though when she was little Marilyn didn't much care for those, either. She recalls that she loved digging them, but wasn't too big on eating them!)

For our family it wasn't just clamming for fun, though. Like fishing (and we come from a long line of fishermen) and hunting (ditto), you were there to get food to put on the table! We never realized it that much as kids that we were somewhat 'poor.' I'm very glad now that we were -- it makes me much more appreciative of all we have.

Well, that got longer than I'd intended! (grin) I've been out with my cats and watered the back yard. And I saw and talked to a neighbor while out scaring the neighbors watering in the front of the house. (We call it 'scaring the neighbors' whenever we go outside without really combing our hair, getting properly dressed or having on some makeup. Poor neighbors! What a sight we must be then...)

I wish I had a picture of all of us from some clam digging trip! I'll need to look around and find a few. (At least of Marilyn and me...)

Tags: summer

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